Belatedly I realise that I should let you know I’m on holiday – I have been since Thursday. I’ll be back next week.
Archive for August, 2009
A friend of mine recently e-mailed to ask me for information about the Public and Commercial Services Union, which with over 300,000 members is the fifth biggest in the UK. In my reply I said: “As the TUC congress approaches, you can expect [general secretary Mark] Serwotka to be at the forefront of demands for concerted action to fight the Treasury’s efficiency programme and pay restraint.”
Lo and behold, I was right. A motion to the TUC congress (too long to copy and paste here; have a look at motion p49 on the draft agenda if you’re interested) from the PCS is callng on unions, under the leadership of the TUC, to band together in support of “protection of public services and an end to privatisation; ending the systematic tax evasion by corporations and the current tax privileges of the wealthy; opposing wage cuts” and more.
I don’t think it will lead to anything much. At last year’s TUC there was a strong motion passed on co-ordinated strike action against low pay which came to nothing. The year before there was another motion passed on co-ordinated action (the word ‘strike’ did not appear). Again, nothing. The PCS is keen to link up with other unions; other unions less so.
This isn’t really about ideology. What’s being demanded here is not revolutionary socialism. It’s closer to Labour party policy circa 1994 when John Smith died and the age of New Labour was ushered in. As far as privatisation goes, Unison are with them on that one; but they’ve never shown any willingness to link up with the PCS over it. Rivalry and suspicion between unions is likely to be factor, as is fear among Unite, Unison and other Labour-affiliated unions of damaging a Labour government.
“It says in the Bible that the poor you will always have with you, and political parties will always struggle to raise money.” – Ministry of Justice source, commenting on the new Political Parties and Elections Act
And if you can’t even take money from rich tax exiles (well, not after next summer), it’ll get even worse for all three major parties…
Or maybe not. But still, this newly published motion to the TUC’s congress next month from the Communication Workers Union is worth a look ( motion P84, for anoraks):
“Congress recognises the lack of adequate
representation at political level for the members
of affiliated unions. Congress notes that New
Labour, as currently constituted, is now failing to
attract the support of our members and that its
vote at the 2009 European Election reached an
historic low. The present Government’s policy of
continuing privatisation, cuts in Government
spending and failure to remove the anti-trade
union laws is unlikely to change this in the near
Congress therefore calls on the General Council
to convene, at the earliest opportunity, a
conference of all affiliated unions to consider
how to achieve effective political representation
for our members.”
Last year the TUC was overshadowed by the creation of a Trade Union Co-ordinating Group made up of left-wing unions, none affiliated to Labour except the BFAWU bakers’ union. Despite being overseen by Labour’s John McDonnell (or perhaps because?) it was seen as a challenge to the authority and power of Labour’s gang of 16 affiliates.
Now there is a call to create a new group… only this time they’ll all be Labour affiliates. If it happens (“which it won’t”, whispers the ghost of congresses past in my ear) it’ll be a lot more of a challenge than the TUCG. While I’m not expecting this motion to pass, it’s interesting that the CWU leadership let it through. What they have to say about it, I’m waiting to hear – this week’s Tribune should have the details.
More on the TUC tomorrow if I get the chance.
Hat-tip: Jon Rogers